Youmans: My best bets for college football Week 3

September 16, 2022 08:36 PM

So what’s next for Nebraska after the firing of coach Scott Frost? The next order of business is a home game against Oklahoma, and the healing and recovery process would get a big boost if the Cornhuskers can pull off an upset on Saturday.

Underdog bettors would settle for a point-spread cover and a close loss, something Frost accomplished routinely at the tail end of his four-plus years in Lincoln.

Nebraska finished 3-9 in 2021 and dropped two of three games this season when the plug was finally pulled Sunday. Each of Frost’s last 13 losses were by single digits, with the largest margin of defeat being nine points at Ohio State last year. There were too few wins, to say the least, but at least the Cornhuskers were consistently competitive.

A year ago, the Sooners were 22-point favorites and needed a late defensive stop to secure a 23-16 victory over the Cornhuskers. Here’s hoping the tight-game trend continues with Mickey Joseph stepping in as interim coach.

Oklahoma was not wildly impressive in victories over Texas-El Paso and Kent State to open the Brent Venables era. The Sooners led the Golden Flashes 7-3 at the half in a 33-3 win a week ago. The offense does have explosive potential with Dillon Gabriel at quarterback and Marvin Mims as a big-play wideout, and that’s the main concern for a Nebraska defense that surrendered 642 yards in a 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern.

The Cornhuskers also have plenty of offensive firepower behind quarterback Casey Thompson, a talented Texas transfer, and running back Anthony Grant.

The primary reasons for a play on Nebraska are the coaching-change angle and home-field advantage. The dark cloud hovering over Frost has been lifted, presumably leading to a new attitude within the team and an emotionally-charged crowd.

Who’s next for Nebraska? Urban Meyer might be ready to be recycled. Gary Patterson, the former TCU coach who’s currently a special assistant to the Texas staff, makes some sense.

College head coaches likely to be targeted are Matt Campbell (Iowa State), Luke Fickell (Cincinnati), Chris Klieman (Kansas State) and Lance Leipold (Kansas). If Matt Rhule fails to turn around the Carolina Panthers, his stay in the NFL could end soon. Joseph can start to make his case for the job by beating Oklahoma.

Circa Sports opened the Sooners as 16-point favorites. I hit this line at 14.5 while it was dropping and still will recommend the Cornhuskers as live dogs.

Pick: Nebraska + 11.5

AUBURN (+ 3) over Penn State: Avoid overreacting to Auburn’s unimpressive start. The Tigers needed a second-half comeback to beat San Jose State last week, and quarterback T.J. Finley has one touchdown pass and three interceptions in two games. Tank Bigsby, one of the toughest runners in the SEC, will fuel the Auburn offense in this matchup. The Nittany Lions have the quarterback edge with Sean Clifford, but their defense allowed 365 yards through the air in a season-opening 35-31 win at Purdue, and Clifford had to pull that one out of the fire with a last-minute scoring drive. This one should go to the wire too. I made the line Auburn -2, so I’ll play a home dog that should be a slight favorite based on my numbers.

LSU (+ 2.5) over Mississippi State: Will Rogers is off to a hot start, passing for 763 yards and nine touchdowns in two wins for the Bulldogs, who are on the road for the second straight week. Rogers is taking a step up in class against the LSU defense, and Mississippi State will have trouble running the ball. LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, who transferred from Arizona State, had a bad first half in the opener against Florida State before finding a groove in coach Brian Kelly’s offense. Kelly needs this win, and he’s a good bet in a duel with Mike Leach. The Tigers opened as 3-point home dogs, but this is probably a pick’em game in reality.

The following plays were added on Friday afternoon:

SYRACUSE (-1.5) over Purdue: The favorite has flipped after Circa Sports opened the Boilermakers -3 on the road. Follow the money and go with Syracuse, which outscored Louisville and Connecticut by a combined 79-21 in the first two games. Orange quarterback Garrett Shrader has completed 79 percent of his passes with five touchdowns. Shrader should win a shootout against Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell.

Brigham Young (+ 3.5) over OREGON: After getting embarrassed by Georgia in the opener, the Ducks are looking to turn things around by beating a ranked opponent. It’s tough to trust Oregon quarterback Bo Nix against a good defense. The Cougars have the better QB, Jaren Hall, and it would help if talented wide receivers Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney return after sitting out of last week’s win over Baylor. BYU returned 19 starters this season, including 11 on defense, and has the experience to win big games on the road.

WESTERN MICHIGAN (+ 11) over Pittsburgh: When these teams met last year at Pittsburgh, Kaleb Eleby and the Broncos stunned Kenny Pickett and the Panthers 44-41 as 14-point dogs. The star quarterbacks are gone for the rematch. The Broncos will rely on running backs Sean Tyler and La’Darius Jefferson. Pitt is listing quarterback Kedon Slovis as a game-time decision with an upper-body injury. In a letdown spot after wild games against West Virginia and Tennessee, the Panthers are unlikely to waltz into Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo and walk away with an easy win.

Last week: 1-3 against the spread

Season: 4-8

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